Home > Lifestyle > Family > Features
Wednesday October 9, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday October 9, 2013 MYT 10:52:12 AM
A diverse family: Bride Hema Tan Sui Lan and groom Steve Yoon Chee Wai with her parents, Tan Kim Seong and Mathevi Malaithan, and younger brother Yuvaraj Tan Hong Leong.
Three Chindians share their stories on straddling two distinct cultures.
MOLLYNA Goh’s father, Roland, is the only son in a Peranakan family, and his parents had expected him to marry a Nyonya. But he was in love with his colleague Pandari Devi, whose father was just as opposed to her marrying outside the race. But Roland and Pandari were steadfast in their love for each other, and eventually won their family’s blessings to marry.
“My maternal grandfather speaks fluent Hokkien, Bahasa Malaysia and English. When Dad started to communicate with him in Hokkien, it broke the barrier and bridged the gap between them. They eventually became best friends,” recounted Mollyna.
Mixed marriages are now accepted in her family. Her elder brother Kelvin is married to a Peranakan while her older sister Rita has tied the knot with an Indian.
“People are more open when it comes to making new friends or getting to know someone. They do not limit themselves when it comes to mixing around with certain groups,” she said.
Mollyna feels blessed being of mixed parentage, as it has enabled her to soak in the best of both worlds. “I’m living in-between and I enjoy being in-between. I can spruce-up colourful cultures and practices in the spaces in-between. I’m not Chinese, I’m not Indian. I’m Chindian,” said Mollyna, adding her family practises Chinese and Indian traditions, but with more emphasis on Peranakan culture and traditions.
Johor Baru-based couple Steve Yoon Chee Wai, 31, and Hema Tan Sui Lan, 25, are both Chindians. The couple first met when Yoon accompanied his foster father Murugayah Ulagappan to visit Tan’s family.
While it is a blessing to marry a fellow Chindian, the couple have had their fair share of problems adapting to the culture and traditions of each family.
Tan’s family practises the Hindu way of life whereas Yoon’s family veers towards Chinese culture and traditions.
“Steve is more familiar with Chinese culture, having attended Chinese schools and grown up in the Chinese community. I can’t speak Mandarin and initially had problems mingling with Steve’s relatives, who speak mainly Mandarin and Malay. It got worse when some of his relatives started making negative remarks about my inability to communicate in Chinese.”
“But we accept our imperfections and learn to make it better for ourselves and our child,” said Tan, who is the proud mother of 13-month-old Dashan Yoon Tang En.
Tan said she has always been criticised for her inability to speak Tamil and Mandarin. She was often teased and found it hard to mingle with her peers in school.
“People tend to assume that having a Chinese and Hindu name meant I could speak both languages. I was initially sad and embarrassed, but luckily I got over it fast. One the best advice came from my father, who said: ‘All the people who look down on you are the people who are losing out on the best of you. You are not living out of their earnings, so there is no reason why you should be affected by their comments’,” said Tan who, since marrying Yoon, is slowly picking up Mandarin.
A little bit different
Nick Tay, 37, didn’t have an easy childhood growing up, especially after his mother Primrose Reena Mary Machado’s death in 1982.
After that, the Chinese side of the family brought us up. They were not happy my father had married my mum, an Indian woman. I was darker than my siblings,” recalled Tay, who felt his aunts favoured his siblings who looked more Chinese or Eurasian.
“My older brother loved seafood. My aunts would cook prawns, fish and all sorts of seafood, even though they knew I was allergic to seafood. I remember being able to only eat rice and vegetables then. It was awhile before my father found out about it, and reprimanded my aunts for it.
“But they obviously didn’t like me, because after my dad scolded them, they cooked me something else to eat ... but it was liver!” recalled the consultant.
Tay takes his childhood challenges in his stride. Now a father of two sons, Tay said parents and family members play an important role in fostering self-esteem and confidence in children.
“Parents’ role is crucial in ensuring our kids understand and respect all people regardless of the colour of their skin. I teach my sons everyday to respect everybody.”
> The writer (centre, featured with her older sisters, Joyce (left) and Esther) was literally ‘arm twisted’ to write the story as she too is of mixed parentage. Although she continues to get remarks about her ‘rojak’ and ‘chap chye’ features, she feels blessed being able to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Celebrating the Chindian community
Tags / Keywords:
Lifestyle, Family, Chindian, Chindians, Chindian families, The Chindian Diaries
Copyright © 1995-2013 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)